Chapter 4

We have adopted a ritual for extending our brotherhood and for teaching the sacredness of game and the proper protection of it.

Alta Lake 1925–1927

American Bison, Banff 1944

American Bison, Banff 1944

Photograph by Cowan. Image Cowan_PH_021 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.
Percy Taverner, Allan Brooks and T.L. Thacker 1922

Percy Taverner, Allan Brooks and T.L. Thacker 1922

Osoyoos, BC. Photograph by Hamilton Mack Laing. Image G-06616 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives.
American Ornithologists’ Union Meeting, Quebec, 1932

American Ornithologists’ Union Meeting, Quebec, 1932

Included Hoyes Lloyd, Joseph Grinnell, Kenneth Racey, J.H. Fleming, Percy Taverner, Allan Cyril Brooks, Harry S. Swarth, V.C. Wynne-Edwards. Image Cowan_PP_281 courtesy of University of Victoria Special Collections.
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When Cowan set out “unraveling the innermost secrets of the lives of mammals” in Mammals of BC, he probably wasn’t anticipating his own life being put under the same microscope. The handbooks of the ‘B’, however, provide an essential guide to the natural history of Cowan. The founding members were a tribe. They were uniformly unassuming, practical and intensely spiritually driven men. They pledged to adopt and advocate what member Aldo Leopold (described as the most influential conservation thinker of the 20th Century14) coined for the group: a “conservation ethic,”15 later called the “land ethic.”…

Cowan had inadvertently stumbled into the collective fold of this next generation. Jim Munro, Percy Taverner, Hoyes Lloyd, James Harkin, Kenneth Racey and Hamilton Mack Laing were some of the Canadian members of the Brotherhood of Venery, or the ‘B’ as they were known amongst themselves. Started in 1925, the ‘B’ drew from wildlife and conservation professions and non-profit societies on both sides of the border. One of their goals was to shape, guide and foster the interests and vocations of the generation that followed after them – and Cowan was a prime candidate. The nationwide contest for young naturalists by the Dominion scientists, to which Cowan the young Scout had responded, was just part of a larger strategy…

Other US members included T. Gilbert Pearson, president of the Audubon Society; John Burnham, president of the American Game Protective and Propagation Association; Herbert L. Stoddard, ecologist and conservationist; and George B. Grinnell, naturalist, author and advocate for native cultures and the bison. The lives and aspirations of many of the members became so intrinsically intertwined with Cowan’s that one might suspect some behavioural polymorphism among the human population.

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14 Aldo Leopold Archives, University of Wisconsin Digital Collections, http://uwdc.library.wisc.edu/collections/AldoLeopold (accessed February 6, 2015).

15 Aldo Leopold, “The Conservation Ethic,” Journal of Forestry 31, no. 6 (October 1933): 634–643.

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